Maharashtra turmoil: SC to scrutinise copies of correspondence between CM Devendra Fadnavis and Governor on Monday

A three-judge bench comprising justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to submit all the documents by 10.30 am on Monday.

Published: 25th November 2019 04:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th November 2019 08:18 AM   |  A+A-

Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari with Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar in Mumbai on Saturday | PTI

Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari with Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar in Mumbai on Saturday | PTI

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: An urgent hearing by a Supreme Court bench on Sunday set the tone for scrutinising Maharashtra ‘coup’ by demanding copies of the correspondence between Devendra Fadnavis and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari—the former staking his claim and the latter inviting the BJP and the NCP to form the new government at dawn on Saturday.

A three-judge bench comprising justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to submit all the documents by 10.30 am on Monday.

The bench said the joint petition by the NCP, Congress and the Shiv Sena seeking a floor test within 24 hours needs to be considered.

It also issued notices to Chief Minister Fadnavis, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, the State of Maharashtra and the Union of India.

During an hour-long hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who represented the NCP, argued that the court was looking at a post-poll alliance and not a pre-poll alliance, as is the norm.

“There were no records in the public domain — neither the letter to the governor staking claim nor the letter of governor inviting Fadnavis to form a government. In a bizarre move, the President decided to revoke President’s rule,” he argued. 

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On the contrary, the NCP, the Congress and the Sena had already declared their plan to form the government on the November 22 evening. How then could the governor conclude overnight that it was Fadnavis who could form a stable government, he wondered.

However, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, representing two BJP MLAs, argued that the governor’s action to invite Fadnavis to form a government was immune to judicial review. 

Sibal characterised Ajit taking oath as deputy chief minister as the annihilation of democracy. 

“He does not have the numbers as 41 out of 54 NCP MLAs have sent a signed letter to the Governor supporting his removal as the legislative party leader,” Sibal said. 

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the NCP and the Congress, attacked Ajit Pawar for claiming the support of 54 NCP MLAs.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the court he is willing to produce the relevant documents, including the two letters.

The petitioners relied on the judgment in the 1994 S R Bommai case, where the court had set aside then-Karnataka Governor P Venkatasubbaiah’s decision to deny then CM S R Bommai the chance to prove his majority. Bommai’s government was dismissed in April 1989, following which President’s Rule was imposed under Article 356. The dismissal was on the grounds that Bommai had lost majority after largescale defections engineered by the party leaders.

The three parties had sought a direction to Governor Koshyari to invite them to form the government under Thackeray, saying they have the support of more than 144 MLAs in the 288-member house.

The petitioners alleged that the governor acted in a partisan manner and allowed himself to be a pawn in the BJP’s illegal usurpation of power. The parties have further prayed for an immediate floor test within 24 hours.

Opposing petitioner’s stand, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, who was representing independent MLAs and some BJP leaders, argued that the governor’s action was immune to judicial review and said, “The entire petition is based on the governor’s actions.

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Article 361 states the governor cannot be answerable for actions undertaken in exercise of his powers. The time when he chooses a CM cannot be open to court’s scrutiny.”

When Justice Ramana intervened to remind Rohatgi that the law is clear on the role of the governor, Rohatgi insisted, “The question is whether the governor can be ordered to prepone the floor tests. Why didn’t they (the three parties) go to the governor asking for documents?”

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